The Thule Criterium is a roof mount rack that uses a ratcheting clamp to secure bikes by the frame. It is the only roof mount rack we tested to use a frame-clamp design. While it does not require removal of the front wheel, the design of the retention system leaves much to be desired. Direct contact with the frame is a major downfall and can cause damage to paint and carbon frames.
Thule Criterium Review
Cons: Uses frame as point of attachment, lacks stability, no security features, difficult to load
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Thule Criterium, a roof mount rack, uses a ratcheting frame clamp to attach bikes for transport. The clamp grips the down tube and wheel straps secure both wheels to the tray. The front wheel is not removed from the bike.
This model is a roof mount rack. It comes out of the box ready for use on either round or square crossbars, but is not compatible with factory crossbars. An arm with a dial-actuated ratcheting clamp grips bikes by the down tube, and the wheels are secured with plastic straps. The front wheel does not need to be removed and thus through axle front forks are not an issue. Unfortunately, the arm and clamp have a difficult time securing frames with unique shapes. In addition, we found that a bottle cage on the down tube would often be in the way and prevent optimal clamp position.
Ease of Assembly and Attachment
The Criterium was the most difficult to attach and assemble of the roof mount racks we tested. The directions were not clear and left us to fend for ourselves. The rack comes out of the box configured for passenger side attachment. Converting it to work on the driver's side is not that difficult, but we had to figure it out by trial and error due to confusing directions. We were a bit surprised by the difficult directions, considering the stellar directions that came with the previous review's Top Pick winner, the Thule Raceway 2-Bike.
Ergonomics/Ease of Use
The Criterium is the lowest scoring roof mount rack we tested in this category. Loading bikes requires overhead lifting while attempting to align the arm and clamp mechanism. Loading is more difficult on tall vehicles, but it is not particularly easy on low roof vehicles either. Frame shape and bottle cages frequently prevented us from getting the clamp in the correct position.
There were no serious issues with durability during testing. We observed a large amount of side-to-side flex when driving with bikes loaded. Over time, this could be detrimental to the rack. The clamping dial did get gummed up and would not catch at times after several months of use, but this was remedied with lubrication.
The Criterium requires two lock cores (not included), one to secure the rack to the vehicle and one to lock the clamp dial. On some frames, we were unable to get the clamp tight enough with the dial, making it possible to pull the bike out of the clamp (with a lot of force) even when locked.
The Thule Criterium is best for vehicles with a low roof height, to limit loading difficulties. It is not recommended for off-road use due to its overall lack of stability. We would also not recommend it for carrying bikes with external cable routing or carbon frames as the clamp could cause damage.
The Criterium has an MSRP of $190. At this price, it is not a great buy. Other racks such as the Yakima HighRoller offer all of the advantages of the Criterium and none of its drawbacks for an increase in price of only $20.
— Curtis Smith